In the week that writer and urbanist Jane Jacobs would have turned 100, Baltimore is holding its first “Jane’s Walk.”
The Jane’s Walk program is a phenomenon in which people from around the world take walking tours to look at cities and neighborhoods the way Jane Jacobs did in her 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which is considered one of the most influential books on urban planning in the 20th century.
May 4 was the centennial of Jacobs’ birth in Scranton, Pa., on May 4, 1916. She died in 2006.
New York City, where Jacobs lived for many years and famously took on car-oriented city planner Robert Moses, has more than 200 Jane’s Walks in a given year.
Baltimore has been slow to get with the program.
Tomorrow, May 7, will be the first Jane’s Walk ever held in Baltimore. Participants will get a chance to explore sections of Charles Village and Remington in a walking tour expected to take an hour or more.
The tour is organized by members of the Maryland Planning Association. It will be led by Robert Kanigel, a Baltimore-based writer who has written a biography of Jacobs, entitled Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs, which will be published Sept. 20 by Knopf. Kanigel says it’s the first comprehensive biography of Jacobs and covers the years she lived both in New York and Canada.
Organizers say it is only fitting that Kanigel should lead the first Jane’s Walk in Baltimore.
Kanigel said he has been aware of Jane’s Walks for a long time and was surprised there has never been one in Baltimore. He said he wants to use this one to explore the differences between Charles Village, a well established urban neighborhood, and Remington, a neighborhood in transition and on the rise. He is calling the walk “Border Country, City Style.”
“We’re going to take a look at the two neighborhoods and talk about some of the principles Jane Jacobs wrote about,” he said. “Charles Village is safe and middle class. Remington is changing. We’re not just going to look cute, pretty places. We’ll be looking at the borders.
We’re going to adopt her philosophy of taking a really hard look at places.”
Baltimore’s Jane’s Walk will start at 11 a.m. at St. Paul and 26th streets, across from Margaret Brent Elementary School. There is no cost to participate.